Fashion label Black Coffee has already beat its competitors in South Africa—winning the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Award for Fashion—and is now bewitching Europe too. Having just showcased its spring/summer ’10 collection at Berlin Fashion Week, Black Coffee showcases its South African heritage through contemporary shapes and colors.
Jacques van der Watt founded the label in Johannesburg ten years ago and was later joined by Danica Lepen in 2004. Their new collection features everything from oversized helmets and nets—references to colonial Africa—to sculptural folded and wrapped silk dresses enriched by hand-beaded details. “We have started using a lot of hand-dying, printing and beading methods,” the duo explains, “this gives each garment a unique, one of a kind feel.”
The twosome anticipated recession times in 2008 with their signature collection “Everyonecanbeadesigner,” made of versatile and all-mutable pieces. “We wanted to leave it up to the consumer to decide how to wear the garments,” they explained. “The versatility makes them great recession buys and a good capsule wardrobe for travel.”
But it was a collection inspired by the silhouettes of African women carrying children on their backs hat justly earned them the Mercedes-Benz Award for Fashion. “We didn’t expect to win, but we did put an incredible amount of energy into our entrance collection. It was very important for us to have a strong showing in terms of the project since the nominees get a tremendous amount of exposure as well.”
Taking distance from what they call “trend-focused brands,” but talking to a clientele who “collect pieces that have longevity rather than just seasonal items,” Black Coffee is an explosive label in a country where fashion is a booming industry still in its infancy. “We have a lot of talented designers in South Africa and a market that is becoming more and more interested in local design,” they further note.
In the wake of recent successes, Black Coffee’s designers will open a new store at Johannesburg’s new development hub Arts On Main in September. “It will be a collaboration with label Love Jozi. We will be the only fashion tenant and we are going to give a new look and feel to the store.”